America Cannot Become Great Again By “Protectionism”

America Cannot Become Great Again By “Protectionism”

George F. Will highlights two important principles on productivity and protectionism, in A plan to make America 1953 again – The Washington Post:

1. Productivity Improvements Mean Less Workers Are Necessary

Since 1900, the portion of the U.S. workforce in agriculture has declined from 41 percent to less than 2 percent. Output per remaining farmer and per acre has soared since millions of agricultural workers made the modernization trek from farms to more productive employment in city factories. Was this trek regrettable?

[…] According to a Ball State University study, of the 5.6 million manufacturing jobs lost between 2000 and 2010, trade accounted for 13 percent of job losses and productivity improvements accounted for more than 85 percent: “Had we kept 2000-levels of productivity and applied them to 2010-levels of production, we would have required 20.9 million manufacturing workers [in 2010]. Instead, we employed only 12.1 million.” Is this regrettable? China, too, is shedding manufacturing jobs because of productivity improvements.

2. “Protecting” Particular Companies From More Efficient Producers Decreases Jobs In Unprotected Industries (Shifts Unemployment)

Levinson notes that Ronald Reagan imposed “voluntary restraints” on Japanese automobile exports, thereby creating 44,100 U.S. jobs. But the cost to consumers was $8.5 billion in higher prices, or $193,000 per job created, six times the average annual pay of a U.S. autoworker. And there were job losses in sectors of the economy into which the $8.5 billion of consumer spending could not flow.

[…] In 2012, Barack Obama boasted that “over a thousand Americans are working today because we stopped a surge in Chinese tires.” But this cost about $900,000 per job, paid by American purchasers of vehicles and tires. And the Peterson Institute for International Economics says that this money taken from consumers reduced their spending on other retail goods, bringing the net job loss from the job-saving tire tariffs to about 2,500. And this was before China imposed retaliatory duties on U.S. chicken parts, costing the U.S. industry $1 billion in sales. Imports of low-end tires from Thailand, Indonesia, Mexico and elsewhere largely replaced Chinese imports.

In the long run, the best way to create real jobs, that raise the standard of living, is a free-market.

“Protecting” particular domestic sectors from foreign competition ends up punishing other Americans on the whole with higher prices, less jobs and a reduced standard of living.

The Syrian War Condensed

Interesting analysis: The Syrian War Condensed: A More Rigorous Way to Look at the Conflict.

The author compares the Assad Syrian Baathist regime to the alternative of the “moderate Rebel’s” anything-but-moderate Islamofascism, and wonders how the Regressive Left that is “mourning the defeat of the rebels in Aleppo” can be “that stupid?”

The Assad regime is by no means benign, but cheering the overthrow of it with something worse is no solution.

Central Dictatorship vs. Individual Planning

Brian Phillips has an excellent post on Houston’s success because of its’ lack of zoning. Writes Phillips in Planning Versus the Central Planner:

What they are really denouncing is the fact that Houston has developed without a central planner. […]Houston’s development has been guided by millions of plans and visions. Each individual has his own plan and vision. Through the lack of zoning, Houston has protected the freedom of its residents to pursue their personal plans and visions. The critics resent the fact that Houstonians have this freedom.

The entire post is worth a read.

Ayn Rand Is Not Coming to the White House, but Donald Trump Sure Could Use Her

IRVINE, Calif., Dec. 21, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The Washington Post recently stated that several of Donald Trump’s appointees are fans of Ayn Rand, the novelist-philosopher most famous for her 1957 best-seller Atlas Shrugged.

“It’s a testament to Ayn Rand’s impact that a president can’t fill a cabinet with successful business leaders without including people who’ve been inspired and influenced by Rand’s heroic depiction of entrepreneurs and innovators,” says Ayn Rand Institute senior fellow Onkar Ghate, author of the essay “One Small Step for Dictatorship: The Significance of Donald Trump’s Election.”

Ghate goes on to note that it’s important to keep in mind that none of Trump’s picks claim to be adherents of Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism. “Rand called herself a radical for capitalism. A cabinet filled with appointees who embraced her worldview would have a very different agenda than this administration is likely to have.”

What would an Ayn Rand agenda look like? According to Ghate: “One thing you can be sure of: it wouldn’t focus merely on rolling back some of the controls and redistribution programs of the Obama era. It would focus on liberating us from the regulatory-welfare state and moving America forward—toward a government devoted to safeguarding individual rights.”

Obama’s Autocratic Parting “Gifts” For The Trump Aministration

Writes Kimberley A. Strassel on Obama’s Midnight Regulation Express – WSJ:

1. Obama Administration is “actively working to undermine a Donald Trump presidency.”

Unnamed administration sources whisper stories about Russian hackers to delegitimize Mr. Trump’s election. […] Trump transition-team members report how Obama officials are providing them with skewed or incomplete information […] Sen. Ron Johnson recently sent a letter to President Obama voicing alarm over “burrowing,” in which political appointees, late in an administration, convert to career bureaucrats and become obstacles to the new political appointees.

2. Obama Administration is issuing a “final flurry” of midnight regulations (“one issued between Election Day and the inauguration of a new president.”)

This past week we learned of several sweeping new rules from the Interior Department and the Environmental Protection Agency, including regs on methane on public lands (cost: $2.4 billion); a new anti-coal rule related to streams ($1.2 billion) and renewable fuel standards ($1.5 billion). This follows Mr. Obama’s extraordinary announcement that he will invoke a dusty old law to place nearly all of the Arctic Ocean, and much of the Atlantic Ocean, off limits to oil or gas drilling. This follows his highly politicized move to shut down the Dakota Access pipeline in North Dakota. And it comes amid reports the administration is rushing to implement last-minute rules on commodities speculation, immigrant workers and for-profit colleges—among others.

3. Trump Administration should repeal every “midnight regulation.”

Trump is No Ayn Rand Hero

Trump is No Ayn Rand Hero

The writers at The Washington Post would have us believe that Donald Trump’s cabinet picks resemble heroes from the pages of Ayn Rand’s novels (“The Daily 202: Ayn Rand-acolyte Donald Trump stacks his cabinet with fellow objectivists“).

As a best-selling novelist and philosopher, Ayn Rand authored both fiction (Atlas Shrugged, We The Living, and The Fountainhead) and non-fiction (Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, Philosophy: Who Needs It, and The Virtue of Selfishness: A New Concept of Egoism) books. If one actually reads Ayn Rand’s books one discovers that Trump would be a villain (perhaps a minor villain, but a villain none the less).

Most people are aware of Trump’s beliefs, but, what of Ayn Rand’s?

 

What did Ayn Rand believe?

Observe:

  • Ayn Rand was an advocate of free trade between free countries (unilateral if necessary). Quoting Rand: “The essence of capitalism’s foreign policy is free trade—i.e., the abolition of trade barriers, of protective tariffs, of special privileges—the opening of the world’s trade routes to free international exchange and competition among the private citizens of all countries dealing directly with one another.” In her view, countries to not trade, but actual people do.
  • Ayn Rand was for liberal immigration, especially for productive individuals (she would have no limits on H-1B visas). As an immigrant, under Trump’s policies, she would probably have died in a Socialist Russia concentration camp rather than coming to the U.S.
  • Ayn Rand was a principled defender of free speech for both corporations speaking against statist policies, and misguided college students burning flags, as neither are violating the rights of anyone. Quoting Rand: “The communists and the Nazis are merely two variants of the same evil notion: collectivism. But both should be free to speak—evil ideas are dangerous only by default of men advocating better ideas.”
  • Ayn Rand was a fiery opponent of racism which she regarded as a species of collectivism, that — like fascism and communism — unjustly benefits the chosen group at the expense of individual rights.
  • Ayn Rand was an uncompromising defender of a women’s right to abortion who would make feminists blush. Quoting Rand: “Abortion is a moral right—which should be left to the sole discretion of the woman involved; morally, nothing other than her wish in the matter is to be considered. Who can conceivably have the right to dictate to her what disposition she is to make of the functions of her own body?”
  • Ayn Rand was a non-militant atheist, who was philosophically for reason as opposed to religious faith (“blind belief, belief unsupported by, or contrary to, the facts of reality and the conclusions of reason”) which she regarded as the “negation of reason.”
  • Ayn Rand was an advocate of the separation of church and state.
  • Ayn Rand was an advocate of voluntary trade for mutual gain and benefit in both material and spiritual values. Quoting from Atlas Shrugged: “The principle of trade is the only rational ethical principle for all human relationships, personal and social, private and public, spiritual and material. It is the principle of justice.” She correctly observed that such a voluntary trade is a win-win situation.
  • Ayn Rand was for the sanctity of property rights and would have nothing but contempt for Trump’s securing property via eminent domain. Quoting Ayn Rand: “The right to life is the source of all rights—and the right to property is their only implementation. Without property rights, no other rights are possible. Since man has to sustain his life by his own effort, the man who has no right to the product of his effort has no means to sustain his life. The man who produces while others dispose of his product, is a slave.”
  • Ayn Rand was a radical for laissez-faire capitalism. She even published a non-fiction book of essays on the subject called Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. Quoting Rand: “Capitalism has created the highest standard of living ever known on earth. The evidence is incontrovertible. The contrast between West and East Berlin is the latest demonstration, like a laboratory experiment for all to see. Yet those who are loudest in proclaiming their desire to eliminate poverty are loudest in denouncing capitalism. Man’s well-being is not their goal.”

The Post piece does mention these views occasionally, but takes no time to explore them and “connect the dots.” At other times The Post makes patently false claims, such as, “Roark, the character Trump says he identifies with, rapes a woman in The Fountainhead,” when in fact, Ayn Rand described that scene as a “rape by engraved invitation,” i.e., consensual sex.

 

Ayn Rand was a philosopher advocating the supremacy of reason

Today Ayn Rand is recognized as the philosopher who revolutionized Aristotle’s nature based, egoistic philosophy for life in the 20th century. (Those interested in a comprehensive academic treatment of Rand’s corpus should peruse A Companion to Ayn Rand (Blackwell Companions to Philosophy.)

Ayn Rand named her philosophy Objectivism and she described it as follows: “My philosophy, Objectivism, holds that…”

  1. Reality exists as an objective absolute—facts are facts, independent of man’s feelings, wishes, hopes or fears.
  2. Reason (the faculty which identifies and integrates the material provided by man’s senses) is man’s only means of perceiving reality, his only source of knowledge, his only guide to action, and his basic means of survival.
  3. Man—every man—is an end in himself, not the means to the ends of others. He must exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself. The pursuit of his own rational self-interest and of his own happiness is the highest moral purpose of his life.
  4. The ideal political-economic system is laissez-faire capitalism. It is a system where men deal with one another, not as victims and executioners, nor as masters and slaves, but as traders, by free, voluntary exchange to mutual benefit. It is a system where no man may obtain any values from others by resorting to physical force, and no man may initiate the use of physical force against others. The government acts only as a policeman that protects man’s rights; it uses physical force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use, such as criminals or foreign invaders. In a system of full capitalism, there should be (but, historically, has not yet been) a complete separation of state and economics, in the same way and for the same reasons as the separation of state and church.

Ayn Rand did not view individual rights as self-evident; rather, the concept of individual rights flowed from the fact that one’s survival and flourishing (life) in a social context requires the equal freedom to act by one’s mind (reason). Or, in her words:

“I am not primarily an advocate of capitalism, but of egoism; and I am not primarily an advocate of egoism, but of reason. If one recognizes the supremacy of reason and applies it consistently, all the rest follows. This—the supremacy of reason—was, is and will be the primary concern of my work, and the essence of Objectivism.”

 

Ayn Rand was the 20th century’s greatest advocate of freedom

In Rand’s view, there are only two ways people can deal with each other: by force (physical coercion) or reason (peaceful persuasion). The job of government is to use the first to protect the second. Rand regarded individual rights not as permissions to be regulated at government whim, but as inalienable. Government’s role is to protect individual rights by banning the initiation (starting) of physical force (which is the only way rights can be violated).

Ayn Rand’s opposition to government coercion is why those associated with the Alt-Right, and the equally bigoted Regressive-Left, despise and defame Ayn Rand: their vision of a government regulated world requires the threat and initiation of physical force by the state. Both the Alt-Right and the Regressive-Left regard rights as alienable privileges to be violated and dispensed with as their ideology sees fit. To the Alt-Right and Regressive Left, Ayn Rand is a mortal enemy.

 

Objectivists would regard Trump’s ideology as perverting his “good” policy positions

This is not to say that Rand, would oppose all of Trump’s policy positions, but it is enough to show that Trump’s cabinet is not Objectivist.

Writes resident philosopher at the Ayn Rand Institute Onkar Ghate on Trump’s victory in his essay, “One Small Step for Dictatorship“:

“A Trump administration, if viewed out of the full context, may even enact some measures others and I would regard as positive, including improvements to the tax code and replacement of Obamacare with something less harmful. But it will be in the wrong way and for the wrong reasons. And even at this concrete level of policy, the Republican control of the presidency, the House and the Senate should give anyone pause who is concerned about, say, the campaign’s demonization of immigrants and of trade or the attempt to impose a Christian variant of Sharia law.”

 

Being an Atlas Shrugged fan does not make one an Objectivist

Reading Atlas Shrugged does not make one an Objectivist any more than reading the Koran makes one a radical for Islam. How the Washington Post conflates Donald Trump’s anti-freedom policies with Ayn Rand’s philosophy boggles the mind. In their list of Trump cabinet picks, there is one real Ayn Rand hero — former BB&T CEO John Allison — whom Trump rejected.

If one wishes to know what an actual Objectivist thinks of Trump’s electoral victory study Dr. Ghate’s essay; and if one wants to grasp Ayn Rand’s ideas in their totality there is no better book then Leonard Peikoff’s Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand. One does not have to agree with the arguments in Dr. Peikoff’s book, but at least one will not be attacking a straw man. Only then can an honest, intelligent discussion of Ayn Rand’s benevolent, life-enhancing, human “philosophy for living on earth” begin.

 

What Freedom Sounds Like: Pence on “Hamilton Gate”

Pence attended the hit Broadway show Hamilton on Friday. He received a mixed reception from the audience that included some booing, and during the curtain call the cast had a message for him saying, “We truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us.” Donald Trump was upset and tweeted that the cast should apologize, but Pence told Wallace he loved the show and “wasn’t offended by what was said.” He acknowledged the booing mixed in with the cheering when he arrived, but said his reaction at the time was to tell his daughter, “That’s what freedom sounds like.”

We may not be Pence fans, and don’t agree with many of his views, but Pence acted Presidential.

Hopefully the President elect can learn from this.

Simpson: Both Left and Right Don’t Support The *Right* To Free Speech on Principle

Steve Simpson, a constitutional lawyer, and director of Legal Studies at the Ayn Rand Institute has a brilliant op-ed in TheHill on why Free speech is a right, not a political weapon.

He makes the case for why free speech “protects the right to take the actions necessary to make one’s speech heard, whether that means spending money on political ads or publishing books or newspapers free of the crushing costs of frivolous libel lawsuits.”

1. Trump Does Not View Free Speech as a Right

Trump […] doesn’t view it as a right that protects speakers regardless of their views. […] Whether Trump is opposing free speech outright or trying to bully speakers, he is no friend of free speech.

2. Trump’s Urge to Censor is No Different From Hillary Clinton

[…] Trump’s urge to censor this form of speech [flag-burning] really different from Hillary Clinton’s desire to ban the political speech at issue in Citizens United? The case, which upheld the rights of corporations to speak during elections, involved a law that prevented a nonprofit from distributing a film that criticized Clinton the last time she ran for president. During her campaign, she promised repeatedly to appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn the case, calling the film it protected “a right-wing attack on me and my campaign.”

3. Campaign Finance Laws Silence Freedom of Speech

During the floor debates for McCain-Feingold, the law at issue in Citizens United, many politicians, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz., included, championed the law because it would prevent groups from funding negative political ads against them. After Citizens United was decided, Congress considered the Disclose Act, which would have forced many organizations to disclose their donors. In praising the law, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said that its “deterrent effect” on corporate political speech “should not be underestimated.”

4. Politicians Attacking the Speech of Opponents is Not New

Remember the Obama administration’s attacks on Fox News as “not really a news station”? Or the FCC’s investigations of news broadcasters to determine if their coverage was “biased”? It is certainly scary for Trump to attack the media as he’s done, but it is equally scary when any president or administration does so. […] Remember Harry Reid’s sustained assault on the Koch brothers, whom he called “un-American” for having the temerity to oppose his agenda? Or the IRS’s targeting of Tea Party groups, which was prompted by politicians who urged the agency to investigate the groups?

5. Both Left and Right Don’t Understand or Support The *Right* To Free Speech on Principle

They treat free speech not as a principle but as a weapon to be used against their political enemies. When your enemies are in power, complain about the threats to speech you like; when you are in power, use government to intimidate and silence your critics.

Don’t for your bookshelf, his book, Defending Free Speech (ARI Press,2016).

Radicals for Capitalism

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